No family is perfect, and most are harboring their fair share of mysteries and buried truths. Some of these secrets are pretty harmless, while others are dark as night. So dark, in fact, that you might wonder if they should’ve just stayed buried, never seeing the light of day. Sometimes rigorous research is required to unearth these bombshells, and sometimes all it takes is a particularly loose-lipped relative letting something slip after one too many glasses of wine. But those ugly family truths usually comes out in some form or another, and these Redditors were there to witness them. Here are some of the darkest, strangest and most scandalous family secrets you’re ever likely to hear.
My grandfather had 4 different families at the same time. Eventually, they found about each other and they left him. Except for my grandmother, she stayed. He has a total of 22 children.
45. Wanted Man
My mom’s cousin’s husband (I forget the term for this) has twice been on the FBI’s top ten most wanted list.
44. Cowardice Was Key
My great-great-great something was on a raid killing Natives back around the whole Western expansion business and had his horse shot out from under him. He slit its belly open, gutted it, and hid inside until the rest of his party was killed and he was left alone. If my ancestors weren’t such cowards, I wouldn’t exist.
43. I Challenge You To A Duel
I found out that one of my ancestors was exiled from Russia for challenging an army officer to a duel (with swords) and winning. My ancestor worked in the czar’s stable, and the argument arose when the army officer insisted on riding my ancestor’s horse. The horse threw him off and the army officer shot it.
We’ve always been horse people.
42. The Hidden Kin
Found out through an angry vent given by my mother, that most of my cousins aren’t legitimate, and most of my aunts had lied to their husbands about the true father of their children. Also found out that there was a very large niche of the family I had never met and that no one really admits to—because they’re all inbred.
41. Violent Ends
My cousin is very serious about his genealogy hobby. He finds relatives we didn’t know existed and jets out to meet them, exchanging stories, tintypes, and the like. Back in 2007 he was visiting such relatives in Iowa and discovered that our ancestor committed suicide by cutting his throat with a pocket-knife while on board a U.P. Train, about six miles west of Kearney, Nebraska. I have a transcribed account of the December 1881 newspaper story, which was unnervingly detailed. The headline reads, “THE SAD ENDING OF JIM HARRIS.” It is a very spooky, interesting read.
40. A Little Too Close To Home
We had a family Christmas dinner a few years ago where my aunt and uncles from both sides were staying over at our house. There were probably 10 or 11 of us at the dinner table, and everyone is getting along well like we always do. My cousin, around 14 or 15 at the time, brings up something about how he laid a massive poop earlier that day. The kids laugh and the adults were like “That’s not table conversation.” Then I jump in and say “Haha, yeah, there are things we don’t talk at the dinner table, like politics and illegitimate children.” Every adult at the table drops their eyes to their plate and goes silent. I’m sitting there like “uhhhh,” what in the Woody Allen movie is so awkward about all this.
What I didn’t know is that my uncle had an illegitimate child many years ago and that’s always been a point of contention between my aunt and him. They also had been arguing about that earlier in the day, and all the adults knew it. Haha man, it was a joke. But seriously though, never make jokes about illegitimate children unless you are absolutely sure no one has one.
39. Drinking Discreetly
My grandmother just confessed to me last week that she was a borderline alcoholic and at age 50 started going to AA by herself—at the synagogue so she wouldn’t run into her Catholic friends—and quit drinking then. No one even noticed because she had hidden her drinking so well from her husband and five children. She didn’t tell her husband for almost 30 years and he was shocked. My mom, dad, and brother all don’t know yet.
38. Funny Stuff
Great grandma had an affair with a clown. An actual clown. And there was some question as to whether my grandpa was the son of said clown.
37. Grandpa Was A Bootlegger
My grandfather and his brothers were arrested during Prohibition for making and distributing bootleg alcohol as part of a major underground project. I discovered this while doing a school project at the library in high school which gave me access to old newspaper archives. I obviously searched for my last name. The first hit matched my grandfather and his siblings.
36. Grandma’s Ganja Operation
My grandma runs a marijuana ring in her small town. She’s about 75 and lives in the rural US. She doesn’t need to deal with cartels or anything because she grows it all on her own on her property. As far as I know, there aren’t any rival organizations in town.
35. Unholy Destruction
My ancestors were kicked out of a town in Kentucky for blowing up a church because they had a distillery underneath it.
34. Delayed Consequences
My grandfather died in the ‘70s of cancer but no one ever told me anything about him. Anyway, I was interested one day so I looked up him up and it turned out he was in the army—the British commandos, to be exact (he was Welsh). I did a bit more digging to see if any of his squad was alive, but I turned out every single one was dead, mostly of cancer. Eventually I decided to confront my gran and sure enough, there were the photos of him in a specific Japanese city after the atom hit.
33. Great Grandpa Got Around
My great-grandpa left China for Hawaii and made his money smuggling heroin and delivering it via air drop into the ocean. He managed to start two families here without either knowing about the other.
32. Well That Escalated Quickly
I found out my “uncle” is actually my cousin. My aunt got pregnant at 15 so my grandma raised him as her own.
Also, the more extreme one. Apparently, my great great (lots more greats) uncle was captured by Native Americans. So in order to escape, he managed to get his hands on one of their babies and threw it in a fire as a distraction.
31. The Rotten Branches Of The Family Tree
My granddad made hundreds of millions through his business and investments by the time he died. Most of it though only happened a few years before he passed. He never got on well with the rest of the family apart from my parents.
As a result, he left everything to charity in his will. Of course, the family weren’t happy about this and wanted to get rich from his hard work, so they lawyered up and fought for years to get the money. Unfortunately, they eventually won—not all of it, but most—taking millions from needy charities and spending it on houses, cars, holidays and gambling. Lots and lots of gambling.
Needless to say, we don’t talk to that part of the family.
30. Granddad’s License To Kill
Granddad was a professional murderer for the Brits. It got my family out of the old country after WWII, but it estranged our branch from the whole family for 80 years and counting.
He turned out really awful—abusive, drunk, and a terrible father. But he is the reason we live in here now, and didn’t spend three generations under the Soviets. He died the same month I was born, so I never met him, but I’ve spent five years compiling family stories and writing a book about our weird folks.
29. Still In The Picture
One of my cousins up and left after he stole a lot of money from the safe at the family business.
Only my grandmother and I know that he moved to the UK, where he works as a mechanic or something. How he moved there we don’t know, but he regularly calls my grandmother to talk to her. Even sent some money back.
28. Hoffa Was Here
My grandpa was a big dude. Roughly 6’6″ tall and 300lbs. He was a very close friend, confidant, and bodyguard for Jimmy Hoffa. For many reasons, my grandma finally was able to convince—read: force—my grandpa to leave the Teamsters, the lifestyle, and move to northern Michigan.
It’s not really a secret at all in my family but rather something that no one really talks about. Everyone knows Grandpa was very close to Hoffa, there just isn’t a lot of details.
27. Off With Their Heads
Supposedly my family picked the wrong side in the French Revolution and sided with the French royalty and had to flee to England after some of them lost their heads. Money buys favor, and they were given land in Scotland by the crown.
All was well and good ‘till they ticked off the church. Some of them lost their heads and had to flee to Canada. Now we wait to tick off the Canadian government and see who loses their heads and where we have to go next. My grandfather has a French family crest and an English coat of arms garment that no one wants to talk about, I only found out about them after helping him move after my grandmother died.
26. Mysterious Inheritance
My grandma inherited several hundred thousand dollars from her stepdad.
The juicy part is that to this day, no one knows how he got it. No one even knew he had that kind of money until he died. Since I’m from the South, my guess is rum running or something like that but we don’t know and likely never will.
25. Familial Fascism
Me: “I went to Rome this summer!”
Grandpa: “That’s great! I was in Rome once.”
Me: “What did you see when you went?”
Grandpa: “Oh you know… I just marched where they told me to march.”
Hint: he’s not American.
24. We Did Nazi That Coming
We found a picture of two great-aunts arm in arm with Hitler. We also have a signed photograph of Mussolini.
23. Broken Promises
That my great-great-great-grandpa left England for America and was supposed to send money for them to come over, but he never did. He just started a new family in America.
22. Unlikely Prankster
Not exactly ‘dark,’ but after my grandpa died we were going through his stuff and found an old letter. My white, very Christian, very conservative grandpa had gotten kicked out of college for organizing a panty raid and somehow no one ever knew.
Of course, we framed the letter and it’s now hanging on the wall of my grandma’s house
21. Childhood Innocence
My favorite uncle cheated on my auntie. Ended up knocking the woman up. She had the child and my uncle was forced to tell my aunt. Aunt divorced my uncle. He became an alcoholic and I had absolutely no idea.
I thought all the times we were going for car rides as a kid, he purposely drove crazy because it was entertaining for me and my cousins but it turned out he was just plastered.
20. Grandma Spills The Beans
My father had an affair with his brother’s wife so my cousin is also my brother.
My cousin doesn’t know though, grandma let this slip whilst wasted.
19. Life-Changing Friend Request
My dad knocked up a girl when he was a teenager and she gave him the ultimatum of leaving or staying. If he left she wouldn’t go after him for child support, so of course, he left. The secret came out because he told my mom when they were dating 25 years ago (before I was born) that he MIGHT have a son. She didn’t look into it.
My sister and I found my brother on Facebook. He looks identical to me and has a daughter. I met him a few months ago and he’s awesome. We told the rest of my family and now my dad doesn’t talk to any of us. My brother has a daughter so I’m an aunt and my grandma is a great-grandma.
18. Bewitching Revelation
Found a Salem witch in the family tree. Not really a secret, just forgotten.
17. The Height of Hypocrisy
My aunt with a very “holier-than-thou” attitude has been having a 40+ year affair with a childhood sweetheart. This is a person that was always quick to criticize other people’s family issues and tried so hard to present her and her family as “perfect.” Her husband is a dirtbag to our family and she lets him completely get away with it. I guess we know why now.
16. Stranger Than Fiction
My great-grandfather was a quiet kind man and treasurer for his chapter of the Elks Lodge in Texas. He was attacked on his way home from an Elks Lodge meeting. He suffered amnesia and regained consciousness as a sailor on his way to Haiti. After landing, he lived in the country for a few months before getting into a bar brawl with a police officer and getting knocked out.
He regained consciousness in jail, with a new-found memory of who he was. He told this tale to a priest from jail, who believed him and wanted to help. The priest wrote my great-grandmother and the American government and somehow convinced the Haitian government to let him return to America.
He returned to my great-grandmother, had two children, and was a law abiding citizen for the rest of his life.
This story is so UNBELIEVABLE that when my mother told it to me six months ago I was convinced it was a hoax. She has documents (the letters from the priest and others) and testimonials of his friends that say this behavior was uncharacteristic. I dunno, crazy man…
15. Buried Secrets
Some of our distant relatives were buried in unmarked graves behind the original homestead.
Today, it’s a condo development. There’s no record of what happened to those graves.
14. Criminal Mastermind
The real reason my uncle wasn’t able to make it to my parents’ wedding was that he was in prison. He had the excellent idea to rob a convenience store by yelling at the cashier and throwing bananas at him. After stealing $8 he walked three doors down to a Chinese restaurant and sat down to eat. Since it was winter, the cops just followed his tracks apparently.
13. Hidden In Plain Sight
My great-grandfather had two families that lived about 200 yards from each other for about 20 years. Neither had any idea the other existed until the funeral. When the priest asked the spouse to step forward, two women did. I’ve been told it was quite a scene in the aftermath. I remember going to see my grandma when I was younger and being told these people were my half cousins but had no idea what that meant until I was lot older and my dad told me what had happened.
Apparently, way back in the day, there were shipwreckers in my family. They’d go up to the cliffs and shine a light to direct ships onto rocks, then they’d steal whatever they could.
11. Gone But Not Forgotten
There was a child born on an isolated farm during the Great Depression. She was born at home with no midwife or doctor in attendance. The parents never registered a birth certificate with the county for her. She got very sick with a high fever as a young child (3-4 years old), and there was no money for a doctor, no phone to call anybody, no car to drive her into town, and no neighbors near enough to go ask for help.
The family treated her as best as they could, but she died after a couple of days. She was buried on the family land with no official grave marker. Since her birth was never registered, her death wasn’t either. Nobody knew she had lived and died but the immediate family. None of the (now very elderly) surviving siblings remember exactly where she was buried on the property. Just that her name was Violet, she was a very pretty blonde child, and she was completely healthy but fell ill and died over the course of only a few days.
At this point, some extended family members doubt the story, but I remember my mom insisting that Violet was real and is buried somewhere on that piece of land.
10. True Darkness
My dad still owns a bunch of Beanie Babies and is convinced the market for them will come back around.
9. High Time He Explained Himself
Ages ago I arranged a meeting with the local dope dealer through an acquaintance and surprise surprise, it was my dad. Needless to say, major questions were asked on both sides.
My god, the look on our faces must’ve been priceless!
8. Witching Hour
When I was 13 years old, I was initiated into the family witchcraft tradition. The biggest shock was running into two classmates at a Sabbat (Pagan holiday).
7. Grandpa Drops a Bombshell
My dad was an only child whose own father went away to war when he was 3 and didn’t return ‘till he was 9. My dad was a painfully lonely child, neglected by his mom and raised by his grandfather. When he married my mom he suddenly had five brothers-in-law, two parents-in-law who cared about him, and dozens of aunts/uncles/cousins by marriage. He absolutely reveled in being accepted into my mom’s big family, but he always regretted never having a brother or sister.
Then one day I was talking to my dad’s father—I think we were actually just talking about the weather when my grandpa looked away from me and started to tremble a bit. I asked him if he was okay and he very quietly said “your dad has a sister in France” and then he got up and walked away. We never spoke about it after, and to this day my dad (80 years old now) has no idea that he has a sister.
6. Cray Cray
Not really a ‘dark’ secret but one I like to tell people; my nan was born in East London in around the 1920s, her mother married a man with the surname ‘Cray’ and had her older sister before eventually re-marrying and having my Nan. My great-grandmother kept the girls’ names the same, as it wasn’t the ‘done thing’ to remarry and change names back then.
We would sometimes ask my Nan about the name and its ties to the famous gangsters and she would always say quite abruptly “No no, it’s spelled with a C, not a K.” Strange, as I always thought as my Nan was quite the gossip and this was very unlike her not to elaborate.
About ten years ago my dad found her birth certificate in the loft with the spelling of “Kray.” The only other thing we know about her stepfather is he was run down by a taxi in New York.
I’d love to find out more information about this as it all seems very odd. A family secret that my nan seems to have kept even from her own family.
5. Machiavellian Grandma
My step great-grandmother killed my biological great-grandmother and great-grandfather. She killed my biological great-grandmother by pushing her off a building—everyone thought she was drunk because it was some rooftop party back in the ‘20s. She wanted my great-grandfather because he was wealthy at the time. He lost almost everything in the stock market crash, and when they realized they wouldn’t recover, she left him for a man who was still wealthy (my step-great grandfather). Poisoned my real great-grandfather. She admitted all this to my mother on her deathbed. Grandma Velma was a psycho.
4. Scottish Scoundrel
This story has been told to me by numerous family members. I’ve tried verifying it but so far I haven’t been able to. Anyway, here it goes…
My ancestor lived in Scotland, belonged to a noble family. The family had a castle and were, as you’d expect when you own a castle, incredibly wealthy. For old mate ancestor, this wasn’t enough. One day his brother was out exploring the lands, doing whatever you did in 18th century Scotland. His brother’s wife remained in the castle while her husband was away.
Old mate ancestor decides to get things started with his sister-in-law. His brother comes home, discovers his brother in bed with his wife and is outraged. He immediately calls a family meeting to discuss this.
As old mate ancestor has disgraced the family, it’s decided that he should be exiled to Australia, never to set foot in the family castle ever again. Off he goes, given a fair whack of cash to ensure he can find his feet in Australia.
Several generations pass (the stories from family are always quite vague about how many…) and here I am today, with the story still told at countless family gatherings…
3. What a Load
All this time my family thought that my weird Hungarian last name meant “boat builder.” Well, recently we were enlightened to learn that the closest meaning is actually “man who goes around the village at night and picks up the toilet buckets from doorsteps.”
2. Way to Leave Us Hanging
A long time ago, back when I was still in middle school my mom’s best friend died. She wouldn’t tell me how she died. Only that it was sudden. When I asked why we weren’t going to the funeral she told me that there wouldn’t be one because “her body was being donated to science.”
I didn’t ask any more questions. That was the last time we ever talked about her.
Well, five months ago my mom handed me her phone to find the number for Domino’s and as I’m scrolling through her contacts I come across the phone number of the dead best friend. Biggest WTF moment of my life. The next day I called it from a pay phone at Waffle House and she picked up. I instantly recognized the voice and accent. She’s not dead. Second biggest WTF moment of my life.
1. Desperate Times, Desperate Measures
My grandmother has all the dirty little secrets but she’s too proper to spill anything. Until this one night when she told me about my grandfather’s (her husband’s) family. Essentially, they were poor, living off the streets and trying to earn money during Australia’s gold rush.
Anyway, the family had too many kids and not enough money so they sold one of their kids to a Chinese businessman. He would’ve been my grandfather’s great uncle I suppose. No one knew and she hasn’t said boo of it since then.